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Archive for the ‘Contract, Contracts’ Category

Here’s a story no one saw coming:

There’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

Okay all that was said tongue-in-cheek.

Unfortunately.

The truth is, we’ve become so inured to political sleaze in Louisiana politics that it’s become difficult to be either surprised or outraged, leaving only indifference as our emotion of choice.

All the ingredients are in place for graft, corruption, and exploitation and there are plenty of those more than willing to take advantage of the opportunity:

  • A contract to manage Louisiana’s flood recovery program worth anywhere from 16 percent to 22 percent of $1.6 billion in federal funds;
  • A former state senator, Larry Bankston, convicted two decades ago on two counts of racketeering who now advises the State Contractor Licensing Board that has managed to insert itself into the debate over the proposed contract;
  • Claims of bid irregularities by a losing bidder;
  • Support of that claim by Bankston who neglected to mention that his son worked for one of the losing bidders;
  • Cancellation by the state of the $250,000 contract so that it may be re-advertised;
  • A potential 2019 gubernatorial candidate questioning the propriety of Bankston’s employment by that state board;
  • Up to 150,000 homes and nearly half-a-million residents affected by Louisiana floods in 2016, many of whom are still waiting for the political inertia called Restore Louisiana to start things moving so they can get back into their flooded homes.

Anytime there’s big money involved, especially federal money, the potential always exists for political and legal jockeying and manipulation. The temptation can be overwhelming.

Stephen Winham recently wrote a column for LouisianaVoice on this very subject: https://louisianavoice.com/2017/03/18/forget-blaming-fema-guest-columnist-area-reporters-correctly-place-fault-with-state-for-flood-recovery-failures/

The fact that the plight of the state’s flood victims has been obscured, seemingly forgotten, in the process of too-long delayed recovery only makes the state of affairs all the more shameful and disgusting. But when you have no voice, you are quickly forgotten in the scramble for big bucks.

And the bigger the bucks, the more greed manifests itself. And the more the greed, the less focus there is on the victims. That’s the way it’s always been and apparently that’s the way it will always be.

And hardly addressed is the issue of just what the deliverables on such a contract would be. Here we have companies crawling all over each other in order to obtain a contract which represents 20 percent of the total allocation for flood recovery.

And those companies won’t put up the first piece of drywall or sheetrock. They won’t perform any plumbing or electrical work. They won’t install any flooring or apply the first coat of paint, nor will they hammer the first nail. In short, they will do nothing meaningful toward flood recovery other than to approve payments to those who do the actual work.

But they will collect up to 20 percent of the recovery money—likely more if they can succeed at the usual practice of coming back for a contract amendment a few months down the road.

This story has received fairly significant play in the Baton Rouge area but if you’ve not kept up with The Advocate’s coverage, here’s essentially what has transpired:

A team led by IEM, a North Carolina company affiliated with several Baton Rouge engineering and consulting firms, easily had the best score—by at least 16 points—among the five teams submitting proposals and also quoted the lowest price—$250 million.

But PDRM, led by CSRS of Baton Rouge, whose bid was $65 million higher, filed an official complaint with the State Licensing Board for Contractors, pointing out that IEM did not possess a commercial contractor’s license at the time of its bid.

The Request for Proposals issued by the state, however, said only that bidding companies had to possess a license or be able to obtain one. IEM did, in fact, obtain a license prior to the time bids were opened. Ironically, PDRM, the company which blew the whistle on IEM, did not possess a contractor’s license at the time it submitted its bid either.

Bankston, legal counsel for the licensing board, opined that eligible bidders needed a contractor’s license at the time of bid submissions—and the licensing board agreed. The following day, March 17, the state decided to CANCEL IEM’s contract and re-bid the project.

By offering the opinion that he did, apparently disqualifying both IEM and PDRM in the process, the winning bid would have then gone to the third lowest bidder had not the administration decided to pull the plug on the whole thing and start over.

That third company whose bid was $350 million, $100 million higher than IEM, was Rebuild Louisiana Now and was led by a Texas firm called SLS. SLS also owns a company called DRC Emergency Services. Bankston’s son, Benjamin Bankston, works as regional manager for DRC. Larry Bankston said he was unaware his son’s firm had any relationship to any of the bidding companies when he wrote his opinion.

DRC had its own legal problems back in 2012 over payments and gratuities the company was accused of giving former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle after the firm received two CONTRACTS from the then-sheriff totaling more than $3 million.

In March 2002, the Louisiana Supreme Court REVOKED Bankston’s law license after his conviction on two counts of racketeering in 1997 in connection with then-State Sen. Bankston’s sham rental of his Gulf Shores condo to video poker operator Fred Goodson for $1,555 per week.

Bankston’s conviction was UPHELD by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 1999.

Contracting board Chairman Lee Mallett of Iowa, said he retains “full confidence” in Bankston.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry DISAGREES. But Landry’s desire to run for governor against John Bel Edwards in 2019 is the worst-kept secret in Baton Rouge, so he’s going to do and say anything he can to embarrass the governor.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, also being mentioned as a potential opponent for Edwards in two years and who was instrumental in obtaining federal flood recover money for Louisiana, also takes issue with the decision to cancel the IEM contract and to start the bid process all over.

“This is very disappointing news,” Graves said, adding that the decision will only serve to further delay needed flood relief funds. “It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy while homes remain gutted, molded and uninsulated.”

Graves said obtaining the federal money “wasn’t easy and now every time we talk to the Appropriations Committee and leadership folks, they cite the fact that we haven’t spent what we already received. It’s a concern absolutely.”

That politicians, lawyers and contractors would put their own interests ahead of those of people who have been forced out of their homes—some for a year now—only serves to drive home the point that while there has been a change of administrations in Louisiana, nothing really has changed.

Yep, there’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

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One thing we’ve learned about the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), the independent lobbying organization for Louisiana State Police (LSP), is that despite a recent $5,000 fine for illegally making political contributions, the organization was far from through.

At the 2016 LSTA retreat in New Orleans held at the Omni Hotel Jan. 18-20, former Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), who was front and center on state police pay raise issues, was rewarded for his work on behalf of State Police while in office.

While retiring state troopers are usually given a watch, the LSTA board voted to purchase a handgun costing several hundred dollars for Kleckley.

Technically speaking, the presentation of a handgun by a grateful LSTA was not a “political” contribution, given the fact that term limited Kleckley had left office on Jan. 11, a whole week before he was given the gift.

It’s interesting to note that state ethics laws strictly prohibit the receipt of anything of value by state employees but do not apply to barely out of office legislators.

LSTA New Orleans / January 20, 2016

Meeting with Command Staff

Col. Edmondson, Major Jason Starnes and Col. Dupuy addressed the board of directors. Command Staff covered LSP issues, Legislative issues and LSTA issues.

A Motion was made by Mr. Rodney Hyatt for the LSTA to purchase a handgun for Mr. Chuck Kleckley, seconded by Mr. Badeaux with no objections, the motion passed.

Here is the State Board of Ethics agenda item dealing with the LSTA contributions:

Louisiana State Board of Ethics Agenda

Friday, January 20, 2017
Docket No. 15-1385

Assigned Attorney: Jennifer Land
Re: Consent opinion regarding the Louisiana State Troopers Association making campaign contributions in the name of its executive director and then later reimbursing him for those contributions.
Law: La. R.S. 18:1505.2A(1) provides that no person shall give, furnish, or contribute monies, materials, supplies, or make loans to or in support of a candidate or to any political committee, through or in the name of another, directly or indirectly.
Facts:The Louisiana State Troopers Association and its executive director, David Young, signed a consent opinion for violating La. R.S. 18:1505.2A(1) and paid a civil penalty of $5,000.

 *(Source: Louisiana Ethics Commission’s Internet web page)

It is well-documented here as it has been elsewhere that when Bobby Jindal refashioned the Louisiana Board of Ethics in 2008, ethics laws for public officials were effectively gutted and the Ethics Board rendered all but impotent. His ethics “reform” prompted mass resignation of ethics board members who were the only ones at the time to understand the significance of what he had done. Besides usurping the board’s enforcement powers, the move effectively dismissed outstanding ethics violations charges against several of Jindal’s legislative allies.

But even the Ethics Board in its weakened condition was able to do what attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to investigate the LSTA’s campaign contributions, could not. Townsend, hired to investigate what appeared to be a money laundering type of scam to conceal illegal political campaign contributions by Louisiana state troopers could find no reason to even file a written report, let alone take any definitive action against troopers involved in the decision to make the contributions.

So, perhaps Mr. Townsend, in light of the Ethics Board’s actions on Docket No. 15-1385 cited above, can tell us just what he did to earn that $75,000 stipulated in his contract. He certainly doesn’t appear to have investigated anything.

While Townsend may not have been able to find any reason for punishing those responsible for the decision to funnel Louisiana State Troopers’ Association’s (LSTA) funds through its Executive Director David Young in an obvious attempt to circumvent civil service or in this case, Louisiana State Police Commission rules, retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet isn’t giving up so easily.

Millet has filed a formal complaint with both State Police Internal Affairs and with the Louisiana Office of Inspector General.

In an apparent effort to held Inspector General Stephen Street prove that his office is something more than expensive window dressing and to assist him in any investigation his office may choose to pursue, Millet also included a 2001 decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal. That decision upheld a lower court ruling that the City of Kenner was justified in firing members of the executive board of the Kenner police association for making political contributions.

Rather than read the entire ruling, the key passage in the court’s decision is highlighted in yellow on pages 1, 3, and 4.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished. When Millet and three other retired state troopers voiced their objections to the political contributions (which included $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards over a period of two election cycles), they became marked men by their brothers in blue—at least by those on the LSTA board.

With only two “no” votes (by Troop Presidents Chris Brown of Troop B and Larry Badeaux of Troop C), the four retirees were unceremoniously kicked out of the LSTA, their combined memberships of half a century revoked—with no reason given other than that it could. So much for backing the blue from within. So much for any pretense of inviting, or even allowing differing opinions. Get caught laundering money and punish the whistleblowers. It’s the classic “shoot the messenger” type of action that LSP is supposed to be above.

Unfortunately, LSTA has shown it is run by petty, vindictive people unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions.

Here is the portion of the minutes to the Nov. 2, 2016, LSTA Board meeting in which the votes were taken to expel the four retirees:

Louisiana State Troopers Association

November 2, 2016 Meeting Minutes

Meeting Title: Louisiana State Troopers Association Board Meeting

Date of Meeting: November 2, 2016

Where: LSTA Office, 8120 Jefferson Highway Baton Rouge, LA 70809

Start Time:          9:00 AM

The meeting was called to order by President Jay O’Quinn. The meeting opened with the pledge of allegiance led by Jay O’Quinn followed by a prayer by David Young.

Jay O’Quinn called roll as follows:

Derek Sentino, Troop A President

Chris Brown, Troop B President

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President

Chance Thomas, Troop D President

Chris Wright, Troop E President

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President

Hack Willis, Troop G President

Dale Latham, Troop I President (Absent)

Heath Miller, Troop L President

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President

Doussan Rando, Retiree Rep (Absent)

Jay O’Quinn, LSTA President

David Young, Executive Director

Old Business:

David Young updated the board on the Ethics Board investigation and its findings. The ethics board has ruled against the LSTA and fined the LSTA $5000.00.

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to accept the advice of our attorneys, acknowledgement of the facts of the Ethics Board ruling and pay the $5000.00 fine.  Seconded by Chance Thomas. No opposition.  The motion passed.

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to remove LSTA members Jesse Perry, Blaine Matte, Leon “Bucky” Millet and Tanny Devillier and for each removal of a member to be voted on separately. Seconded by Heath Miller. 

Roll Call Vote: Jesse Perry

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Yes

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 7-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Leon Millet. 

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President- Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Tanny Devillier

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Blaine Matte

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to send a letter to the four members who have been removed from the LSTA. Seconded by Chris Brown. No Opposition, the motion passed.

So no one on the board had the nerve to tell them to their faces. They were notified by letter.

Real class.

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There are times when, after you break a major story about official wrongdoing and after the requisite denials by those involved, everything gets quiet and the story seems to have hit a dead end. Or at least been placed in a state of suspended animation.

But generally, if you are willing to be patient and wait long enough, the story gets new life with the surfacing of new information.

So it was a year ago when LouisianaVoice and New Orleans Fox8 News investigative reporter Lee Zurik simultaneously broke a STORY that Troy Hebert, former director of the Office of Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control (and furtive candidate for the U.S. Senate last fall—he got one-half of one percent of the vote), was under investigation by the FBI for:

  • Extorting sex from a New Orleans woman, Sarah Palmer, in exchange for approval of a liquor license for the French Quarter restaurant she managed, and
  • Illegally steered applicants for liquor licenses to attorney Chris Young for representation through Young’s sister, Judy Pontin, executive management officer for the New Orleans ATC office.

Now, thanks to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Hebert by a former ATC agent, those same issues have surfaced again.

Documents concerning still another issue, the suppressing of an investigation into a Baton Rouge bar following a 2012 accident involving a patron of the bar who had a blood alcohol content of .307 when he struck and killed two cyclists, killing one and injuring the other.

LouisianaVoice wrote in a February 2016 POST that Hebert wrongfully took control of the investigation and personally exonerated the Bulldog Bar from any wrongdoing. Chris Young was legal counsel for the Bulldog.

The only problem for fired ATC agent Brett Tingle, who filed the lawsuit against Hebert, it’s possible that none of Hebert’s repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment in a deposition will be allowed into testimony.

Federal Judge John DeGravelles of Louisiana’s Middle District in Baton Rouge, currently has under advisement Hebert’s motion for protective order filed by attorney Renee Culotta which would, if granted, prohibit Tingle’s attorney, J. Arthur Smith, III, from posing any questions at trial about Hebert’s relationship with Palmer and/or Young.

In Hebert’s deposition taken in December in preparation for trial in the Tingle matter, Hebert repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment when Palmer’s name was brought up by Smith, as illustrated by the following exchanges:

  • Smith: “Do you recognize this (redacted) document?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “Do you know a lady by the name of Sara (sic) Palmer?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “Have you engaged in any infidelity during your marriage to Dawn Vick?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “That’s not a Fifth Amendment matter.”
  • Smith” I’m going to show you Exhibit No. 9 (redacted). What is this document, sir?
  • Hebert: I will exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “So with respect to Exhibit No. 9, you’re exercising your Fifth Amendment right”
  • Hebert: “I answered the question.”
  • Smith: “I’ll show you (exhibit) No. 10 (redacted). Do you recognize the Exhibit No. 10?”
  • Hebert: “I will exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”

While the exhibits were redacted in Hebert’s Memorandum of Support for obvious reasons, the motion did note that exhibits eight and nine were “documents concerning” Louisiana Oyster House, dba Star Steak and Lobster (the restaurant managed by Palmer), notably a notice of violation and renewal applications. Exhibit 10, Culotta said, “concerned Chris Young documents previously attached to Hebert’s deposition as Exhibit 10-12.”

Interestingly, in his Memorandum in Support of his Motion for Protective Order, Hebert said that while he has not been indicted and there is “no active criminal case” against him… “It is clear Hebert has been under investigation by the FBI, and should he provide answers to these questions, he could face indictment and criminal prosecution.” (Emphasis added.)

And this memorandum, we should point out, was written by Hebert’s attorney, Renee Culotta, who is being paid thousands of dollars while under contract to the Attorney General’s office as a contract attorney—just as she was in a previous lawsuit against ATC, that of Lisa Pike, a former ATC employee who also sued Hebert. The terms of that settlement have been held confidential by the court.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request for Culotta’s billing for legal representation in the Pike matter. Her billing in the defense of the Tingle lawsuit would not be made available because the case is ongoing.

Culotta said in the memorandum that allegations by Palmer against Hebert “occurred in January 2016, well after Tingle’s work for and termination from the ATC. Tingle did not participate in any issue concerning Sarah Palmer and/or Steak and Lobster, and no facts about Palmer or Steak and Lobster are contained in (Tingle’s) complaint.

“Likewise, the issues concerning Chris Young (i.e., whether Hebert gave preferential treatment to Young and/or referred clients to Young as part of an illegal scheme) are also not a part of this lawsuit and are not relevant to and have no bearing on whether Hebert allegedly retaliated against Tingle because of Tingle’s participation in the race discrimination charges and lawsuits filed by three African-American employees.

Tingle’s counsel’s questions and discovery concerning Chris Young and/or Sarah Parker were only meant to embarrass and harass Hebert,” Culotta said in her memorandum.

“Hebert cannot fully defend himself in the civil case (i.e., by explaining his position concerning Young, Palmer and (t)he Star Steak and Lobster license renewal) while the threat of criminal prosecution is looming.

“Plaintiff cannot have it both ways: if he intends to pursue this evidence, he then must agree to a stay in order that Hebert can defend himself without threat of criminal prosecution.

“Defendant Troy Hebert respectfully requests (that) this court issue a protective order forbidding plaintiff’s counsel from discovering, asking any questions about or referencing Chris Young, Sarah Palmer and/or the Star Steak and Lobster restaurant going forward in this litigation. To the extent plaintiff claims these issues are relevant, then Hebert respectfully asks the court to stay the proceedings until the statute of limitations has run on any criminal charges that could be brought in connection with these matters.” (Emphasis added.)

Now I don’t pretend to be a legal scholar. Journalism schools (or at least the one I attended) sadly do not require any courses in law even though any career journalist is going to be covering courtroom procedure at some point during his career.

That said, it appears to me that someone is one helluva lot more concerned with potential criminal exposure than any civil liability.

But then, that’s understandable. If a public official is convicted of criminal wrongdoing, he is the one who is penalized. If, on the other hand, a civil verdict is returned against that same individual, it is the taxpayer who ultimately pays whatever judgment is assessed.

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The Louisiana State Police Commission may have placed on its agenda for Thursday’s meeting an item to go into “executive session for discussion of professional competence” of commission Director Cathy Derbonne but an option that rests with Derbonne could put commission Chairman T.J. Doss behind the proverbial eight ball.

Doss is the State Police member on the commission. The remaining six members are appointed by the governor from each of the state’s Congressional districts.

Besides the item to enter into executive session, a separate item calls for “consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.”

The entire proceeding, however could blow up in the faces of commissioners should Derbonne exercise her option to insist that all discussion be held in open session. Legally, she is entitled to make that call and if she does, there could be egg on the faces of Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, et al.

In something of a plot twist, the web page of the State Police Commission was down briefly Wednesday night. Efforts to go onto the PAGE resulted in a message that the web address could not be accessed. The page was back online, however, after about 20 minutes.

Interestingly, the funneling of more than $40,000 in campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) through its executive director produced only a sham of an investigation by a political ally of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Natchitoches attorney and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend was hired under a $75,000 contract to “investigate” the contributions which were approved by the LSTA board of directors, comprised of state troopers, and laundered through LSTA Executive Director David Young. Young made the contributions, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards, by writing checks on his personal account and then submitting expense invoices to the association.

Townsend, obviously taking his marching orders from up the food chain, declined to include as part of the evidence an audio recording of a meeting of troopers concerned about the contributions at which it was acknowledged that the LSTA violated the restrictions against state troopers becoming active in political campaigns, including making contributions. Townsend also failed to follow protocol in submitting a written report of his findings and instead, made only a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

Townsend likewise has been silent on the issue of the manner in which commission members were appointed. When there is a vacancy, the commission chairman is required to notify the university president in that congressional district to solicit names for nominations from which list the governor makes his appointment.

Derbonne’s major transgression appears to be that she did her job, including notifying the governor’s office of the requirements for member appointments and of commission members who, like the LSTA, violated ethics rules by making political contributions while sitting on the board. Three members ultimately resigned because of that issue.

So, bottom line, what we have here is a failure to communicate (apologies to the late Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke). An attorney who is a crony of the governor shirks his duty to the job for which he was contracted but still collects his fees and stands in good stead with the commission while Derbonne followed the dictates of her job and finds her job is on the line.

Way to go, guys. You should really feel good about yourselves. Eulis Simien, I really thought you had more integrity than to let yourself be manipulated by Doss and Edmonson.

Every time I hear Doss talk, I wonder how it feels to have Edmonson’s hand up his backside.

Calvin Braxton, you’ve already seen what can happen when you cross Mike Edmonson, but you’re going along with this fiasco anyway?

Monica J. Manzella, I’m really not that surprised; after all, you negotiate contracts with the State Police on behalf of the City of New Orleans. No conflict there.

Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Mike Edmonson obviously owns you.

Donald Breaux, we know where your loyalty lies with your special LSTA-1 license plate on your car.

You’re all a real piece of work.

How can Simien and Caruso-Riecke (appointed June 6) and Manzella (Oct. 11), who between them, have barely a year’s experience on the board, make any kind of intelligent judgment call as to the competence of Derbonne? The answer is, they can’t; they can only rely on the manipulations of Edmonson and Doss.

And that $75,000 investigation by Taylor Townsend only to get a verbal “I recommend no action.” It’s a damn good thing you weren’t heading up the investigation of the previous commission executive director DEBRA JOHNSON. Even the Office of Inspector General nailed her for felony theft, fraud, and malfeasance in office.

If anyone in this tragicomedy should be called to the carpet for misappropriation of funds, it should be Townsend. I could’ve done what he did for a measly five bucks and a beer from the bar run by LSTA over at the State Police training facility in Zachary.

We can only hope Derbonne will exercise her rights and make them do their dirty work out in the open for everyone to see.

And if you think firing a single employee—for no other reason that she insists on doing the right thing despite what Edmonson wants—will make your problems disappear, you’re so very wrong.

If you think LouisianaVoice has been a pain in the ass so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) promises to be a bloodbath with number-one coward (there are six cowards on the commission, so we are forced to give them numbers) T.J. Doss leading the way—running interference, as it were, for his boss.

The agenda for Thursday’s 9 a.m. meeting includes two significant items:

  • Executive session for discussion of professional competence of Director of State Police Commission (Cathy Derbonne);
  • Consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.

While there was no immediate indication what precipitated this sudden move, rest assured that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s DNA is all over it.

There’s no guarantee, of course that Derbonne’s fate has already been decided and that the “discussion” and “consideration” are mere formalities (read: B.S.)—but that’s where the smart money is.

Here is a copy of an ANONYMOUS-LETTER LouisianaVoice received last Saturday, which apparently was also sent to Derbonne:

Actually, perhaps coward may be the wrong term. A better description would be incompetent, backstabbing, rubber-stamping, salivating lap dogs—owned, wormed and neutered by Edmonson. Did I leave out trained? Sorry.

Like the letter (apparently written by an active Trooper who works at State Police Headquarters in Baton Rouge) says, “The senior command—that would be Edmonson, Jason Starnes and Charlie Dupuy—does not take kindly to not having the LSPC rubber stamp their desires.”

That sentence was likely in reference to an issue raised by the only member with any spine, LLOYD GRAFTON of Ruston. Grafton, a couple of meetings back complained that the commission had been misled by Edmonson when he told commission members the promotion of Starnes to lieutenant colonel so he could take on the financial duties of retired JILL BOUDREAUX (even though he has no background in accounting or finance) would not result in additional costs. “Then I turn around and (the new lieutenant colonel slot) has gone from $125,000 to $150,000. Somebody is not being honest,” Grafton said.

To a member, the remaining five members (Monica Manzella was not yet on the board at the meeting in question)—Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Donald Breaux, Calvin W. Braxton, Sr., and Eulis Simien, Jr.— went conveniently blank, professing to have no memory of Edmonson’s comment but Derbonne told the commission that he did indeed make that claim.

(An audio recording of the meeting obtained by LouisianaVoice via a public records request confirmed Grafton’s recollection of Edmonson’s testimony as well as Derbonne’s assertion.)

At that point, Doss and the Feeble Four switched their arguments to whether or not, LSPC had any authority over setting salaries. Derbonne’s response was the commission had no authority to exceed the State Police pay grid but that it did have the authority to approve the promotion of Starnes—based on Edmonson’s assurance that no additional cost would be incurred.

Perhaps that anonymous letter should also have pointed out that Edmonson and his lackey commission don’t like to be shown up by facts or to have their flawed collective memories refreshed when it becomes and embarrassment to them.

That, Ms. Derbonne, is apparently an unforgivable sin.

Basically, here is what LouisianaVoice has learned in covering LSPC during the past year:

  • The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA—not to be confused with LSPC, which is the state civil service equivalent that investigates state trooper wrongdoing and hears appeals from disciplined troopers) laundered political campaign contributions through its executive director—in apparent violation of state ethics rules prohibiting campaign contributions from individual troopers. The decision to make the contributions, by necessity, had to have been approved by members of the LSTA board;
  • An “investigation” of the contributions by LSPA hit an abrupt dead-end when Gov. John Bel Edwards pal Taylor Townsend was hired at $75,000 to get to the bottom of the campaign contribution controversy. He promptly declined to submit a written report to the LSPA and instead, made a verbal recommendation that “no action” be taken, a recommendation only too quickly approved by the commission;
  • LSTA operated a bar that served alcohol at the State Police training facility in Zachary where prisoners are also housed, an apparent violation of state law prohibiting the sale and/or the consumption of alcohol at correctional facilities;
  • Former LSPC member William Goldring, who RESIGNED last April after it was revealed he had made political contributions while on the board (a state ethics violation), is owner of an alcohol distributorship in New Orleans, CROWN BEVERAGE, that sold liquor to LSTA for the bar, a cozy business relationship that could also be considered an ethics violation;
  • LSPC member Monica Manzella is a New Orleans attorney who serves as Legal Counsel for the City of New Orleans. As such, she negotiates and approves all Local Area Compensated Enforcement (LACE—a program is run by some district attorneys in the state to pay State Troopers for traffic enforcement, including DWIs) contracts between the city and State Police, contracts that determine what rate is paid the troopers (see above re: ethics);
  • Manzella was never nominated for her position on the commission by a university president as required by state law—even though LSPC and the governor’s office had been notified of this discrepancy with other members well before her appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards;
  • J. Doss, a rank and file State Trooper, is Chairman of the commission and as such, would be called upon to take the lead in any investigations of State Trooper transgressions—including any investigation that might arise involving his boss, Edmonson, a questionable incestuous arrangement at best.

Here are a couple of STATE-POLICE-CONTRACTS approved by Manzella in her capacity as legal counsel for the City of New Orleans.

Given the multiple ethics breaches, the naked power grab being attempted by Edmonson through his rubber stamp commission and the numerous serious administrative blunders documented on this site, Gov. Edwards needs to seriously consider cutting his losses now before Edmonson causes him irreparable political damage and embarrassment down the road, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association be damned.

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